Autistic meltdowns result from anxiety, sensory overload, and other physiological factors outside the control of the person with autism. They can come out of seemingly nowhere, and they can be dangerous given when and where they happen. Though they might appear a bit like tantrums, they're not the same. Many autistic people have written at length about the differences between tantrums and meltdowns, and I've seen this in my own autistic son, who often melts down in unfamiliar situations, when he lacks communication tools, or when there's too much noise.
But, even if a meltdown is not willed like a tantrum, is it possible to alleviate the severity of it? Or to cut it off before it begins?
Awake Labs thinks so, and they've made a new wearable band called Reveal to help track anxiety and other physiological signals so parents, caregivers, and autistic people can work to reduce triggers for meltdowns.
"Reveal...provides a quantified measure of behavior and emotion," says the team at Awake Labs. "Reveal is a wearable band that measures and tracks physiological signals in real time, empowering people living with autism to understand changes in their behavior and emotions."
Here's how it works: A person with autism wears the Reveal band, which uses state-of-the-art sensors combined with an advanced algorithm to measure and track their physiological signals. Then, using an app, Reveal can notify the autistic person, parent, caregiver, teacher, or therapist about changes in the physiological signals. With this information, the autistic person, parents, or caregivers can react to the notification and address the changes by reducing triggers.
The Reveal bracelets are currently available for purchase via an IndiGoGo campaign (where you can get them for hundreds of dollars less than retail prices). I'm hoping to buy one for my son—not because I think it means he will never have a meltdown again—but because I think it's a great tool to help him move through the world with less anxiety and perhaps enjoy his days a bit more.